DALLAS – We all know the saying "reunited and it feels so good." Somehow those words never rang more true than now for Ebola survivor Nina Pham and her dog, Bentley.
"Thank you again for helping take care of Bentley over the last 21 days caring for him as if he was your own," said the Dallas nurse at a news conference Saturday morning.
Pham won her fight against the deadly virus after trying to help the first Ebola patient diagnosed in America win his battle. Thomas Eric Duncan was not as lucky.
"It's been a tough month," admitted Pham.
The 26-year-old Texas Health Presbyterian nurse who was transferred to Maryland's National Institute of Health's hospital for treatment worried about her four-legged partner left behind.
"I was frightened that I could possibly not know what would happen to one of my best friends," she said.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says the city rallied around Bentley.
"There were a lot of human beings who spent a lot of time making sure this dog was safe and making sure the community was safe as well," he said.
The spirited King Charles Spaniel happily pawed his way out of isolation on Saturday and waged his way back into Pham's arms.
All three of his tests for Ebola came back negative.
"He's such a wonderful patient," said Dr. Debra Zoran with a smile.
The Texas A&M University professor and small animal emergency team member checked on Bentley daily. She admits that doing a hands-on job in a Hazmat suit came with challenges.
"Not being able to do our normal physicals," she explains, "but still being able to observe his behaviors, how he acted coming out of the cage, how he ate his food or whether he was interested in playing every day and that's how we informed ourselves from day to day to day."
Now she and her colleagues are celebrating the success story. In Pham's world, Bentley truly is top dog.
"I feel like Bentley reentering my life is yet another reminder of hope and encouragement for me moving forward and fulfilling my life to its fullest with my best friend at my side again," she said as Bentley's tail wagged a mile a minute. He licked her face the entire time.
So what happens now? Bentley is about to celebrate his second birthday. Pham wants to make sure it's great, but more importantly she hopes her battle with Ebola helps doctors inch closer to a cure.